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I felt sure this 1984 film would prominently feature the synth-pop hit “Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco someplace in it. It didn’t—not even over the closing credits! Wikipedia tells us that the film merely inspired the song, but for most of my life I thought the song was part of this movie.
The official music video, which my cable TV-loving child self absolutely watched many times, features actors in powdered-wig period dress bopping along to the synths. I must have assumed that these visuals were not original to the music video but clips from the movie whose title Falco sings again and again in the chorus. That’s reasonable, right?
Anyway, great movie. Saw the director’s cut from the aughts, which seems to be what you’ll find on streaming services. It clocks in at three hours long, and I was riveted through all of it. Such a well-assembled picture! I loved Tom Hulce’s portrayal of Mozart as nasty little gremlin in a shaggy pink wig who plays unspeakably beautiful music like he’s telling a rambling, filthy joke. The film’s use of Mozart’s music—both diegetic and otherwise—is simply astounding. My favorite: the scenes of Salieri, seething with jealousy, catching a glimpse of Mozart’s original scores and brought to his knees by the soaring magnificence that would roar unbidden in his head from just seeing those scrawled staves.
Two scenes run oddly long: the chaotic farce that Mozart watches in the theater alongside the commoners, and the final-act scene where Salieri helps the dying Mozart transcribe his Requiem. I loved watching every minute of these and also found them wanting abbreviation. I would wager that those and—judging from the PG-to-R rating slide between the two cuts—the nude scene were both left on the floor for the theatrical release. I am too lazy to go confirm this.
Speaking of flights from reality for the sake of a better blog post, the likelihood that I was watching an entertaining fabrication rather than a dramatic historical document didn’t strike me until the film’s last hour, when Frau Mozart castigates her husband for agreeing to score a silly libretto about magic flutes and giant snakes. He shrugs, as if agreeing that it’s hack work, but this absolutely tripped over my understanding that Mozart was totally into co-creating Die Zauberflöte, pouring his personal fascination with Freemasonry into its celestially bizarre imagery.
In the end, the whole movie is a beautiful work of pure fiction that just happens to drop a lot of names, right? Whatever Salieri’s sins in real life, he objectively was not the obsessed villain portrayed here. But boy, what a great villain F. Murray Abraham’s Salieri makes, declaring war with God Himself in his monomaniacal quest to destroy his absurd, giggling rival! One wants to take such a good story as also the most true telling, and one reflects on how often the movie version of a thing just ends up as the truest version, in our culture.
The trailer for Amadeus is astounding! Doesn’t it make you want to see more trailers like this, versus the whun-chun-whun-chun-squeeee kind that’s been the film-trailer industry standard for god knows how many years? But maybe the whun-chun business is like price tags that end in 99 cents instead of a round dollar: it’s a local-minimum neurological hack that folks in the business perfected years and years ago, and nobody likes having to do it, but also the math works against anyone trying something else.
But anyway, they invented two characters just for the trailer, right? These two dudes playing two anonymous but in-period busybodies whispering themselves hoarse over all of the film’s plot points. This is amazing. Could you imagine, like, the trailer for the next Star Wars movie centering on a conversation between two moisture-farming knuckleheads in a cantina, trading the latest rumors about the latest blaster-hot shenanigans happening light-years over their heads? And having neither appear in the film istelf? Oh, I’d love to see that.
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